On August 9th, the Academites had the privilege to hear from Research & Technology Directorate Deputy Director Dr. George Schmidt about the revolutionary new mission architecture, HERRO (Human Exploration using Real-time Robotic Operations). HERRO is unique in the fact that it utilized the existing technological strengths that NASA has and utilizes them in a new way to achieve a goal.
A main limiting factor for human space flight is the high cost associated with it. Not only does human-rating the aircraft raise the cost, but also human space flight requires multi-stage aircraft to facilitate return to Earth. In HERRO, human crews are confined to in-space destinations, and surface exploration would be conducted by human-controlled telerobotics. This circumvents the current communication gap issue seen experienced by Mars rovers and eliminates the need for a human-rated surface landing vehicle.
In addition, the destination and goal of human space flight are often disputed among leading field experts. Human space flight can be geared towards visiting celestial bodies like the Moon or Mars, servicing Herschel or the James Webb Space Telescope, or visiting near-Earth objects. However, HERRO has the unique advantage that its missions can be tapered towards any of these destinations. HERRO consists of incremental modules that permit initial missions to occur with minimal technology development. Then, while these initial missions are taking place, new modules that enable more advanced missions will be developed. This makes HERRO more resilient against political swings.